Denver Post sale rumors began circulating earlier this month -- and they won't be quieted by the latest developments at the paper.
Two longtime staffers -- assistant city editor Marcus Chamberland and copy editor Chris Metteer -- have been laid off, and we hear that a new hire was put on hold following the end of a major initiative from the Post's parent company, Digital First Media. The closure of that program, dubbed the Thunderdome, sparked speculation about a possible sale in the first place.
As we've reported, the Thunderdome is described on the DFM web page dedicated to it as "Digital First Media's solution to providing content, support and coordination to its network of more than 100 local newsrooms, each with their own distinct communities and stories. Think of it as the wire service local newsrooms wish they had. Based on the strength of this network, Thunderdome is able to leverage the most-engaging news reports of the day -- produced by DFM journalists and through a growing portfolio of media partners -- for publication and distribution on all platforms."
This approach, along with endeavors such as the clunkily titled Project Unbolt, were envisioned by DFM's boss, John Paton, as a way to lead newspapers forward amid the digital revolution. But on April 2, Paton shared a blog entitled "Moving on From Thunderdome," in which he announced that the company had decided it was time to "go in a new direction."
Just over three weeks later, the latest layoffs were announced. Here's an April 24 memo from Post editor Greg Moore describing the moves:
By now you are probably aware that unfortunately we were forced to do two staff reductions today to address our continuing budget challenges in the coming fiscal year.
The positions for Chris Metteer and Marcus Chamberland were eliminated. We want to thank Chris and Marcus for their long service to The Post. These reductions are never easy, and we all hurt when they happen.
There are other difficult operational cuts under consideration , but we don't foresee any further reductions in personnel. More on that later.
No one can predict the future, but we believe these moves, along with carefully managing our resources, will meet our budget goals. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out. I will be back in the office tomorrow.
Chamberland has served in a number of roles at the Post since 2003, surviving previous cutbacks along the way. Here's an excerpt from his LinkedIn page about the eleven months he spent as an assistant editor:
I was retained when two-thirds of my colleagues were laid off in June 2012. After that point, I was responsible for all of my old duties as well as interfacing daily with reporters and line editors covering politics, the Colorado legislature and breaking news. Workload increased substantially, and I became comfortable with the heavier workload and was able to maintain the quality of work that has always been my standard.
The profile notes that Chamberland was named assistant city editor in February -- meaning that his apparent promotion was followed a short time later by the elimination of his position.
Metteer, meanwhile, wrote about his departure from the Post on his Facebook page. The item reads:
Well, so much for that job. My position at The Denver Post was eliminated this morning in a reduction of workforce, which means I should be a record-holder for a long, long time. I am sure to be the ONLY employee dismissed twice by the same method. And The Post worked quickly, ending my Gmail account and severing my ties to Passpack almost as soon as I left the building. I am a big fan of efficiency.
But I am an optimist. This opens up other opportunities. I loved reading Malcolm Gladwell's "David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants." The main lesson Gladwell teaches is that impossible odds often mask new ways to win. All you have to do is think differently. It isn't "outside the box" thinking, but more "build a new box with remnants of the old one and add creative new construction." Well, time to put those thoughts into action.
The Fighter Still Remains.
Metteer also tweeted about the layoff, noting that the news reached him on Take Your Daughter or Son to Work Day:
Good thing I didn't take one of my kids to work today!!! Lol. But it might be good lesson on "job security." #FighterStillRemains
— Chris Metteer (@ChrisMetteer) April 24, 2014
In addition, Metteer shared his impressions in an April 28 blog post entitled "I Lost My Job, and Other Irritations." Here's an excerpt:
I needed to drop off my work badge with Kevin Dale in the "leaving The Post" routine. He was in the 9:30 a.m. meeting of all the newsroom mucky-mucks. I simply walked into the big conference room, placed my work badge on the table, gave Kevin a soft punch in the shoulder, and said, "Thanks, dude."
I walked out with my backpack and my athletic bag slung over my shoulder. I didn't say a word. I walked to the elevators, punched the down button and left.
And that's how a journalism career that spanned several decades ended.
Nevertheless, Metteer, who's currently working on a novel, remains optimistic about the future.
A story shared by a reliable source suggests that the Thunderdome's shutdown may be having repercussions on the local level. How so? On the day of the Thunderdome announcement, a reporter (not our source) is said to have been on the cusp of joining the Post's staff when he got a call retracting the offer because "we have no idea what's going to happen next."
Such uncertainly is nothing new for newspaper journalists -- but that doesn't make it any easier to handle.
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